Night after night, protesters trek through Tampa Bay. Masked and holding up handmade signs, they march through heat and rain to demand racial equality.
They aren’t alone.
There are the volunteers marching alongside them, passing out water bottles and granola bars. The lawyers waiting by the phone, ready to take on pro-bono cases. The artists, lending skills to create sharable resources.
Here are some of their stories.
New grassroots organizations
Community Mutual Aid St. Pete was founded at the beginning of June to give people a tangible way to support the safety and longevity of local demonstrators.
“If this isn’t your reality every day like police brutality, racism, etc., it’s hard to know how to kind of break in and try to open yourself up to the movement,” said organizer Karli Schneider, 31.
“There are people who are showing up for the black community, despite the pandemic, so I wanted to be able to provide some of the comforts and some of the necessities to kind of keep the movement going."
Half of Black Crow Coffee Co. in Old Northeast is empty because of the coronavirus, so Schneider, who works at there, asked the owner if the group could use the space to fill care packages for protesters.
They raised over $2,500 through Venmo donations in three days. The funds are used to buy supplies for protesters, as well as people in the homeless community.
Another organization, Tampa Bay Action Collective, was established June 3.
“We’re a group led by black, queer, fat disabled folx," said co-founder Chastity Martin, 24. “We work to distribute resources and uplift people.”
Within four days after the group’s first Instagram post, about 50 volunteers stepped forward. Some shop for snacks, face masks and first aid equipment. Others fill supply bags with sunscreen and resource lists, or drag wagons filled with Gatorade bottles to protesters in Tampa and St. Pete.
Co-founder Katye Waddle, 26, made a protest guide. It passes down wisdom from experienced protesters, including what to expect while marching, COVID-19 testing sites to visit after going out, safety tips and inclusive therapists.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
“I just want to be personally the best ally I can be as a white person and uplift black voices and help those in the community who are victims of racial oppression [and] systematic oppression,” Waddle said. “Especially since I’m physically unable to go out and protest.”
In less than a week, volunteers made over 1,200 bags for protesters and donated over $500 worth of supplies to Food Not Bombs as well as $500 to the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.
“As a black woman who was raised by a single mom, I’m very aware of the impact of the community," Martin said. “Growing up, we were raised in church, and I’ve always understood the power of giving and community support. And so right now for me to be able to lead something is so important."
Their mission doesn’t end after the protests do, Martin said. The group plans to partner with Food Not Bombs and local restaurants to feed black and brown families and the homeless.
Restaurants pitching in
Tampa Bay’s restaurants are also finding ways to support the movement.
Some are welcoming weary marchers with snacks and a space to cool down, like St. Petersburg’s Green Bench Brewing Co. Black Crow Coffee Co. donated reusable bags for protest kits. Valhalla Bakery sent vegan granola bars. The owners of Bandit Coffee are helping Tampa Bay Action Collective distribute supplies for protesters.
During the coronavirus shutdown, customers bought boxed lunches at Golden Dinosaurs Vegan Deli and the restaurant’s employees delivered the meals to to healthcare workers at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. The initiative kept the deli afloat.
Now, Golden Dinosaurs is preparing and delivering free meals to protesters
“We’re just doing this because we feel like this is what needs to be done," said Audrey Dingeman, 37, co-owner of Golden Dinosaurs.
On May 29, the deli matched employee tip donations, sending a total of more than $1,500 to Campaign Zero, an organization focused on ending police violence.
Golden Dinosaurs teamed up with Nah Dogs Vegan Hot Dog Cart to continue passing out meals.
“Everyone goes out there for hours and hours,” said Golden Dinosaurs employee Tiffany Beyer. “There’s only so much you can do to prepare. So to have food and water and those kind of resources available to them, I think is really helpful.”
Derek Bernstein at St. Pete-based Bernstein Law is one of the local lawyers taking on pro bono work to help protesters who have been arrested.
“I want to do good because I think it’s unfair and unconstitutional for police to be arresting people for using their First Amendment right," he said. “I don’t think they put the freedom to assemble as No. 1 on accident."
Bernstein, 34, typically works in personal injury and family law. He says having knowledge of criminal law and the constitution can be helpful for protesters.
Bernstein is vetting cases to make sure that the people he represents pro bono have values that align with his. He is also offering free advice to groups of protesters over FaceTime. Last week, Bernstein told a group of about 30 Largo protesters what to do and say if confronted by an officer. He also shared those tips on his Facebook page and Youtube channel.
“Maybe one of those people who is kept out of jail by asking a simple question will make a big impact," he said.
Local artists are using their talents to amplify black voices and messages of anti-racism.
Sun Signs St. Pete, for example, is using its social media platforms to share downloadable posters for protesters.
Print St. Pete sold out of its antiracist posters and raised over $720 to donate between Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block. The Gulfport-based print shop is planning to make more prints to sell in the future, but is prepping a free digital version for people to print on their own.
Swamp Sister, a music collective that supports art, and Tiny Rain Bows, a pair that hosts DIY craft workshops, teamed up to create a Pocket Protest handbook.
“I started reading that you’re not supposed to have your phone on during protesting,” said Swamp Sister founder Kai Holyoke, 22. “I was just kind of thinking, we should make something where all these resources are all together and easily accessible to anyone.”
Holyoke reached out to friend Mia Hollenback of Tiny Rain Bows to figure out the best way to create a portable guide. They crammed local legal resources and safety tips, many from the Tampa Bay Action Collective, onto one piece of paper.
They spend nights printing, cutting and folding close to 1,000 free zines to pass out to protesters. The guide is also available in a printable format online.
“I haven’t seen this many people come together like this for such an important cause that is beyond themselves," Holyoke said.
• • •
Tampa Bay Times protest coverage
HEADING OUT TO THE PROTEST? How to protect eyes from tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.
WHY DO POLICE KEEP CLASHING WITH PROTESTERS? We looked at law enforcement rules. They urge de-escalation but only to a point.
WHAT ARE THEY USING? A guide to non-lethal and less-lethal weapons used in local, national protests.
SOME ARE NEW, SOME ARE LONGTIME FAVORITES: 15 black-owned restaurants and food businesses in Tampa Bay
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.